Faith in Fitness: Ready, now, 1…2…3 and 1…2…3

Published on: June 1, 2016

Rosie Korfant

Rosie Korfant

Parrish resident; Activities Coordinator JSA Medical Group, a Division of DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc.

June 2, 2016 — Wanna boost your brain cells? Put on your dancin’ shoes! Yep, it’s true — research has shown that as a general rule of thumb, moving to music releases the brain’s pleasure components and stimulates brain cell growth, making minds more pliable. Activities such as ballet release endorphins that give satisfaction and a sense of euphoria.

Robyn Flaum Cruz, president of the American Dance Therapy Association, attests to dance boosting moods and bonding people, which, in turn, encourages socialization.

Dance therapy uses movement to achieve emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration. In other words, motion and emotion are interconnected.

Creative expression within dance can inspire relationships with a dynamism that otherwise isn’t possible merely with verbal communication. Remember that old adage “body language says it all”? In dance therapy, it actually is proven true. Movement is more than an exercise; it’s a communication skill all unto its own.

According to Dr. Joseph Coyle, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, your brain should tango! Watching the variety of movements (a type of dance therapy) in our JSA Activity Center makes me realize that dancing rewires the brain in a manner not possible with other simple exercise programs.

Pioneered by Marian Chace in the early 1930s, dance therapy began as a type of marriage between modern dance and psychiatry. Dance therapists believe that mental and emotional issues hold the body in muscle tension and inhibit movement patterns. Moving in a rhythmic manner, as a group or individually, generates good feelings of being with others and eases muscular rigidity while diminishing anxiety and increasing energy.

Julie Miller, executive director of the American Dance Therapy Association, says, “Dance therapy is as old as civilization.” Throughout history, dance has been an enriched part of a variety of cultures expressing ceremonial or religious rites and self-expression. In early civilizations,  dancing, religion, music and medicine were linked as a means for the body to naturally heal and grow.

Movement contains symbolism and allows improvisation that mixes with nonverbal communication, thus making it easier for professional dance therapists to evaluate their patients’ needs. There is no single fixed type of therapy; some programs use traditional dance like ballroom or salsa dance, while others may choose yoga.

Remember, your voice isn’t your only form of communication — use your dance steps, too!


Julie Miller, American Dance Therapy Association
Susan Kleinman, MA, DMT, BC, NCC,CEDS, Dance Therapist
Anne L. Wennerstrand, CSW, DTR
The New England Social Worker Magazine
Jeong YL, Hong SC, Lee MS, Park MC, Kim YK, Suh CM (Dance therapy and emotional responses)
Ziarko B., Twardowska, M. (Dance therapy in treatment of psychiatric and somatic disorders)
Berrol C. (Dance movement in head injury rehabilitation)
Dr. Joseph Coyle, Harvard Medical School
Miriam Berger, New York University